Unusual, even exotic sounding Irish boys names. These are the popular Irish names for boys including the Gaelic meanings, origins and spellings. Listen to author Frank McCourt in the audio so you can get the correct Irish pronunciation of these Irish boys names. This is a great way to find out how to exactly pronounce Irish male names. Get the the correct pronunciation of each Irish boy names, research the meaning, and find out the origin of the male name for your baby boy.
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(Viewing 1 – 172 boys names)
PRONOUCE: “aid + an” or “aid + on”
DESCRIPTION: A diminutive form of the name Aed meaning “fire” and would imply “born of fire.” It became a popular name in honour of St. Aidan of Iona (c. 630 AD) who founded a famous monastery on the island of Lindisfarne which he used as a base to evangalize the North of England. In art Aidan is usually represented as a stag, a reference to the legend that he saved a deer that was being hunted by making it invisible.
Aengus, Aonghus , Oengus
PRONOUCE: “eng + iss”
DESCRIPTION: From aon “excellent” and gus “strength, vigor.” Aengus was the god of love and of youth. His words were as sweet as honey, attracting bees and birds. He fell deeply in love with a beautiful girl he saw in a dream and passed through many trials, including turning himself into a swan, to win her love. The poet William Butler Yeats immortalised his search in “The Song of Wandering Aengus:” I went out to the hazel wood, Because a fire was in my head, And cut and peeled a hazel wand, And hooked a berry to a thread; And when white moths were on the wing, And moth-like stars were flickering out, I dropped the berry in a stream, And caught a little silver trout.
PRONOUCE: “all + bay”
DESCRIPTION: From an old Irish word meaning “white,” the 6th century St. Ailbe was associated with the monastery at Emly in County Tipperary. The local people requested that he bless a river that had no fish. St. Ailbe did and that very day the river was filled with an abundance of fish. The people built five churches in St. Ailbe’s honor at the best fishing spots along the river. Ailbe may be used for a boy or a girl.
PRONOUCE: “all + yill”
DESCRIPTION: From the Irish ailleacht “beauty.” Ailill was the young husband of Queen Maebh, chosen by her because he was “a man without meaness, fear or jealosy, a match for my own greatness.” His argument with Maebh over who had the greater herd of cattle led to The Cattle Raid of Cooley (read the legend), one of the greatest epic tales in Irish mythology.
DESCRIPTION: From rua “red” and would make an appropriate name for a red-headed child.
PRONOUCE: “are + dawn”
DESCRIPTION: From ardanach meaning “high aspiration.” Ardan was one of the sons of Usna who helped Deirdre escape to Scotland so that she would not be forced to marry King Conchobhar MacNessa.
DESCRIPTION: In Ireland a seperate name from Arthur it comes from an ancient word for “a bear,” used in the sense of “outstanding warrior” or “champion.” A pagan High King of Ireland, Art’s rule was so honest that two angels hovered over him in battle.
DESCRIPTION: The name of one of the twelve apostles, it is the Irish form of the Hebrew name Bartholemew “Son of Talmai.” Bartley is also a derivation of the name Parthalon who was the leader of the first people to occupy Ireland after the Biblical flood, about 2,800 BC, and who, according to legend, brought agriculture to their new homeland. As such it is not really an Irish name although it was in relatively common usage in times past, particularly in the west of Ireland. The present Prime Minister of Ireland is Batholomew Ahern, although he is more commonly known as “Bertie.”
PRONOUCE: “bray + dawn”
DESCRIPTION: Comes from the word bradan meaning “a salmon” in Irish and the bradan feasa, the “Salmon of Knowledge” (read the legend) is central to the tales of Fionn MacCool (read the legend).
PRONOUCE: “bren + dawn”
DESCRIPTION: There are at least seventeen saints who bear the name but St. Breandan the Navigator is probably the best known. Tradition has it that he was born in County Kerry, set sail in a small boat with a group of monks in the early 6th century, visited an island inhabited by birdmen, rode on the back of a whale and was the first European to set foot on the shores of the Americas, nearly a thousand years before Columbus. In the 1970s Tim Severin recreated St. Breandan’s voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in a flimsy, hide-covered rowboat known as a “curragh.” St. Breandan is venerated in Ireland as the patron saint of seafarers and travellers.
PRONOUCE: “bree + an”
ENGLISH: Brian (pron. “bry + an”)
DESCRIPTION: From brigh “high, noble, strong.” This is one of the most widespread Irish names ever, in honour of the most revered High King of Ireland, Brian Boru (read the legend) who defeated an army of invading Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 but died of wounds he received in the battle. Kincora – a poem by James Clarence Mangan (translated).
PRONOUCE: “kav + an”
DESCRIPTION: In Irish cabhan means “grassy hill” or “hollow” and is the name of the Ulster county Cavan.
PRONOUCE: “can + iss” or “ko + in + ock”
DESCRIPTION: coinneach “attractive person,” “pleasant person.” A sixth-century Irish missionary St. Canice founded churches in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. As Coinneach he gave his name to the town of Kilkenny, Cill Coinneach “Coinneach’s Church.”
Carney, Cearney , Kearney , Cearnaigh
DESCRIPTION: From cearnach “victorious” and implies “victorious champion.”
PRONOUCE: “ka + hal”
DESCRIPTION: cath “battle” and all “mighty” and signifies “a great warrior.” On his way home from a visit to Rome (c. 666 AD) St. Cathal was asked to fill the vacant see of Taranto in southern Italy and served as it”s prelate until his death. Known as St. Cathaldus, he is still venerated in the area and a fresh water stream in the bay is known as “l’annello di san Cathaldo,” “the ring of St. Cathaldus,” as it marks the place where he is believed to have stilled a storm by throwing his ring into the water. He was the patron saint of the Italian army during WWI. One of the most common names in Ireland in the Middle Ages, it is popular again in Ireland.
PRONOUCE: “kar + ul”
DESCRIPTION: From the Irish word cearbhall and means “fierce in battle.”
PRONOUCE: “key + in”
DESCRIPTION: From cian “ancient, enduring.” In legend Cian Mac Mael Muad was the son-in-law of Brian Boru (read the legend) who led the armies from the province of Munster to victory over the invading Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, a battle in which both he and Brian were killed. Cian was the eighth most popular Irish boys name in Ireland in 2003.
PRONOUCE: “keer + awn” or “keer + in”
DESCRIPTION: ciar “dark” and the diminutive -in it means “little dark one.” Popular for over 1500 years, at least 26 saints have borne the name. The most notable, St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise (c. 530 AD), was the son of a carpenter who studied with St. Enda for seven years and went on to establish a monastery at Clonmacnoise, on the banks of the River Shannon in County Westmeath. It became a major spiritual and educational center and despite being plundered by the Vikings and the English, remained a major religious center until the 1550s.
PRONOUCE: “kil + e + an”
DESCRIPTION: cille means “associated with the church.” One St. Cillian left Ireland in about 650 AD with eleven companions and carried out his missionary work in the Rhine region of Germany where he became Bishop of Wurzburg after converting the local lord, Duke Gosbert of Wurzburg, to Christianity. Later Duke Gosbert married Geilana, his brother’s widow and Cillian declared the marriage invalid. While Gosbert was away on a military expedition, Geilana had Cillian beheaded when she found that Gosbert was going to leave her because their marriage was forbidden by the Church. The city of Wurzburg still celebrates a festival of mystery plays each year, known as Killianfest.
DESCRIPTION: cliareach “minstrel, scholar.” A surname now used as a given name.
DESCRIPTION: Derived from the Irish word cluain meaning “a green plain or pasture” or may mean “an intriguing rogue” – does “blarney” come into it?
PRONOUCE: “koh + lin”
DESCRIPTION: From coll “chieftan” and the diminutive -in and would mean “little chieftan.”
Colm, Colum , Colmcille , Columb , Columba
DESCRIPTION: A Gaelic form of the Latin columba meaning “dove.” St. Columba of Iona or Colmcille colm + cille or “dove of the church” was a prince of the O’Neill clan, a great poet and scholar. When Columba copied a book belonging to a monastery the abbott claimed it. Columba refused. His royal relatives got involved and a battle ensued. The High King decided in the abbott’s favor “To every cow it’s calf, to every book it’s little book” and Columba was exiled to Iona – the closest place from which he could not see Ireland. His monks created “The Book of Kells” and he himself may have illuminated some of the manuscripts. Born in 521 AD, by the age of 25 he has founded 27 monasteries and 40 churches in Ireland, before setting up a monastery on the island of Iona, and from there he christianised Scotland and northern England.
DESCRIPTION: From the same root as Colm, it means “little dove” and has developed into a seperate name from Colm and there are said to be 350 saints of the name. St. Colman of Kilmacduagh, lived as a recluse until his meeting with the king of Connacht. As the king was sitting down to dinner on an Easter Sunday the feast was miracously whipped from in front of his eyes and when he and his servants followed it they found Colman, weak after his Lenten fast, devouring the food.
PRONOUCE: “kun + al”
DESCRIPTION: Means friendship or could be from con “a hound,” as applied to a swift-footed warrior, and all “great, mighty.” In legend Conall Cearnach (“Conall the Victorious”), one of the mightiest warrior heros in the Red Branch Knights, the forerunners of the Knights of the Round Table, avenged the death of his foster brother Cuchulainn (read the legend). It was also believed that he was in the Holy Land when Christ was crucified. Every nation on earth was reputedly represented and Conall Cearnach was Ireland’s representative and it is further believed that he was one of the people who put their shoulders to the rock that covered the entrance to Christ’s tomb and rolled it back on that first Easter morning.
DESCRIPTION: An old name from con “a hound” or “swift-footed warrior” and in the form conan means “little warrior.” Conan Maol (“Bald Conan”) was one of the warrior-band, the Fianna (read the legend).
PRONOUCE: “con + r”
DESCRIPTION: Means “lover of hounds.” Conchobhar MacNessa was the king of Ulster and, according to legend, was born on the same day as Christ. Conchobhar, an uncle of Cuchulainn (read the legend), loved Deirdre and wished to marry her. But she fled with his nephew Naoise and his brothers. Conchobhar gave chase and althought he promised to forgive them, he killed Naoise and her abductors. In the battle a sling-shot lodged in his brain which doctors could not remove and on hearing of the crucifixion of Christ he over-exerted himself in his rage and the sling-shot fell out and he died. In 2003 it was the fourth most popular baby name for boys in Ireland.
Conlaoch, Conleth , Connla , Conla
DESCRIPTION: From conn “chief” + laoch “hero” meaning “highest chief.” One of the earliest holders of the name was the son of Cuchulainn (read the legend) and Aoife and in mythology “Conlaoch’s Well” was the source of great inspiration and knowledge, for “The Salmon of Knowledge” (read the legend) swam in its waters. The salmon had eaten the magical nuts that fell from the nine hazel trees that grew above the well so whosoever ate the salmon received its great powers.
Cormac, Cormack , Cormick
DESCRIPTION: From old Irish corbmac “son of the charioteer.” Cormac Mac Airt was probably the most famous of the ancient kings of Ireland. As the ruler of Tara, the seat of the high kings of Ireland, for forty years (probably 227-266 AD), he was famous for his wise, true and generous judgments. Cormac owned the wonderful gold cup given to him by the sea-god Manannan Mac Lir. If three lies were spoken over it, it would break in three; three truths made it whole again. Cormac used this cup during his kingship to distinguish falsehood from truth and when he died, the cup vanished. It was a very popular name in early Ireland and is still used today.
DESCRIPTION: cron “brown, sallow, dark-skinned.” The seventh-century St. Cronan built a monastery in a very remote area of his native County Tipperary but travellers lost their way trying to find the hospitable Cronan. Saddened by this he built a new monastery closer to the roadside which became the modern town of Roscrea. He was known for his generosity to the poor and to travellers.
Irish Boys Names D – F
PRONOUCE: “di + re”
DESCRIPTION: daire “fruitful, fertile.” The Brown Bull of Cooley (read the legend) was owned by Daire Mac Fiachna, and his refusal to sell his bull to Queen Maebh was part of the reason for the fight between the provinces of Ulster and Connacht. At present it is a very popular name in Ireland with all four spellings and it is often used as a girl’s name with the spellings Daire and Dara.
Daithi, Dahey , Dahy
PRONOUCE: “dah + hee”
DESCRIPTION: It is an old Irish name meaning “swiftness, nimbleness.” Daithi, the last pagan king of Ireland, ruled from 405 AD to 426 AD, and he had twenty-four sons. Along with Crimhthan the Great (366 A.D.) and Niall of the Nine Hostages (379 A.D.) (read the legend) Daithi led Irish fleets to raid the Roman Empire. He was killed by lightning in the Alps and is buried under a standing stone called “King Daithi’s Stone.” As in all these matters there is debate over where the stone is located, either in County Roscommon or on the Aran Islands, off the coast of County Galway.
PRONOUCE: “dawl + ee” or “dale + ee”
DESCRIPTION: dalach meaning “frequenter of gatherings” and refers, therefore to a “counsellor.” The Irish Parliament is known as the Dail (pron. “doyle”), which means “a gathering.”
Darcy, Darcie , D”Arcy
DESCRIPTION: From the surname O’Dorchaidhe “descendant of the dark one.”
PRONOUCE: “deck + lan”
DESCRIPTION: From dag “good” and lan “full” suggesting “full of goodness.” St. Declan was the founder of a monastery at Ardmore in County Waterford and may have preached in Ireland before the arrival of St. Patrick. Many miracles are attributed to a rock on the beach at Ardmore known as St. Declan’s Stone. According to legend, on a trip back from Wales one of his disciples, Runanus, forgot Declan’s sacred bell. But a prayer from Declan and, miraculously, the stone carried the bell over the waves back to Waterford.
DESCRIPTION: “like an oak.” It is often used as a short version of Derek and Dermot but can be a name in its own right. The city of Derry in Northern Ireland comes from Doire Colmcille, the name of a 6th century monastery.
DESCRIPTION: Meaning “one from Desmond,” Desmond being an area of South Munster, one of the four provinces of Ireland. Popular diminutives are Des and Dessie.
PRONOUCE: “deer + mid”
DESCRIPTION: “without enemy.” The name of early kings, legendary heroes and saints, Diarmuid was the lover of Grainne and the most beloved of that warrior band, the Fianna (read the legend). Grainne, as the daughter of Cormac Mac Airt, the High King of Tara, was betrothed to a much older man, the legendary Fionn Mac Cool (read the legend). When Grainne saw Fionn at the wedding banquet she realised he “was not for her” and put a a “geis,” a spell, on his nephew, Diarmuid, to run away with her. For sixteen years the lovers were forced to roam the countryside, all the time knowing that they were being constantly pursued by the furious Fionn. Each night they made a fresh bed in a sheltered spot and legend has it that these beds can still be seen today in many remote places. (Read the legend of Diarmuid and Grainne).
DESCRIPTION: From dealan “a flash of lightning” or it may come from an Irish word for “faithful, loyal.” A common surname it is the Irish form of the Welsh name “Dylan.” As Dylan it was the tenth most popular name for Irish baby boys in Ireland for 2003.
DESCRIPTION: domhan “world” and all “mighty” implying “ruler of the world.” “Donal Og” (“Young Donal”) is the title of a fifteenth-century love song that is still popular among Irish traditional musicians and singers.
PRONOUCE: “done + acka”
ENGLISH: Donagh (pron. “done + a”)
DESCRIPTION: donn “brown” and cath “battle” meaning “brown-haired warrior.” Brian Boru’s (read the legend) son Donncha was a High King of Ireland until his death in 1064.
PRONOUCE: “dove + lin”
DESCRIPTION: From dubh “black” and lan “blade, sword” means “black sword.” Dubhlainn loved the fairy queen and legendary harpist Aoibhell who gave him her cloak of invisibility to wear in battle.
PRONOUCE: “aim + an”
DESCRIPTION: Is the Irish form of Old English ead “rich” + mund “guardian”, and implies “guardian of the riches.” In more recent times the name has been given to honor Eamon De Valera who was President of Ireland for 14 years, the maximum allowed, from 1959 to 1973.
PRONOUCE: “air + nin”
DESCRIPTION: Meaning “iron.” The name is often linked with Ernest, a Germanic word meaning “vigor.” The name of sixteen Irish saints, St. Eirnin is the patron saint of Tory, an island off the coast of County Donegal.
DESCRIPTION: The name is given to boys as a mark of respect to the great Irish orator and patriot Robert Emmet who was a leader of the unsuccessful 1798 rebellion against the British. He was captured on August 25, 1803 and tried for high treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. When asked if he had any thing to say in response to this sentence Emmet gave what is considered to be one of the most moving speeches of the period: “…When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done.”
DESCRIPTION: ean meaning “bird” and suggests “birdlike” or “freedom of spirit.” A soldier and a prince Enda was converted by his sister, Saint Fanchea. He renounced his dreams of conquest and decided to marry one of the girls in his sister’s convent. When his financé died suddenly the night before their wedding, he surrendered his throne and a life of worldly glory to become a monk. He made a pilgrimage to Rome and was ordained there before returning to establish ten monasteries on the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland. The name is used for boys and girls.
DESCRIPTION: Comes from inis “island.” Ennis, a town in County Clare is situated on an island between two streams of the River Fergus.
PRONOUCE: “o + in”
DESCRIPTION: Comes from an old Irish word and means “born of the yew tree.” In Northern Ireland the name Eoghan is found in Tir Eoghan, County Tyrone or “The Land of Eoghan” and is often accompanied by Roe in memory of the Irish patriot Eoghan Roe (“Red Eoghan”) O”Neill who won a great battle over the British at Benburb in 1646.
PRONOUCE: “fwail + awn”
DESCRIPTION: Comes from the word faol “wolf.” The earliest record of the name seems to be for a follower of the warrior Fionn Mac Cool (read the legend) who was so loyal that he would have rescued Fionn from captivity, even from God himself.
PRONOUCE: “fail + im”
DESCRIPTION: feidhil “beauty” or “ever good.” Three kings of Munster bore the name. Feidhelm Mac Crimthainn was both a king of Munster and a Bishop of Cashel. He contested the sovereignty of Ireland with the O’Neill kings. He was unsuccessful in the ensuing battle and in 842 AD the annals record… “The crosier of devout Feidhelm was abandoned in the blackthorns. Neill, mighty in combat, took it by right of victory.”
DESCRIPTION: Comes from fear + Dia “man of God.” Ferdia battled with his friend and foster-brother Cuchulainn (read the legend) in the battle over the Brown Bull of Cooley (read the legend). They fought for four days, each night sending each other food and sweet herbs as medicines for the wounds they had inflicted on each other during the day. They fought so bitterly that the river itself fled its bed in terror to give them room for their warfare. And each morning they resumed fighting until, on the fourth day, Cuchulainn flew into a rage and let loose his magical spear, the dreaded Gae Bolga, which destroyed his friend Ferdia.
PRONOUCE: “fer + gull”
DESCRIPTION: It seems to come from fearghal “brave, courageous, valorous.” Fergal Mac Maolduin was an eighth-century High King renowned for his efforts in battle.
PRONOUCE: “fer + guss”
DESCRIPTION: Derived from fear “man” and gus “strength” and signifies “a strong warrior, virile.” According to the legend of the Cattle Raid of Cooley (read the legend) Fergus was the king of Ulster and his lover, the cunning Nessa, duped him into letting her son Conchobhar rule in his place for a year so that in years to come her son could be called “the son of a king.” Fergus consented but after the year Conchobhar refused to relinquish the throne and so Fergus joined Maebh in her battle against Ulster, his native province.
DESCRIPTION: Meaning “fair-haired,” the name has been popular since the sixth century when St. Finbar came to an area of Cork that was being tormented by a serpent. The people begged him to do something to help them. One night he went to where the serpent was sleeping and sprinkled it with holy water. The angry serpent tore and devoured the land until she slithered into the sea at Cork Harbor. The track she left behind filled with water and became the River Lee and that’s why St. Finbar is the patron saint of Cork. It is said that the sun didn’t set for two weeks after Finbar’s death.
DESCRIPTION: “fair-haired” or could mean “white fire.” There have been seventy four saints with this name, including St. Fintan of Clonenagh in County Laois (c. 600 AD) who lived the life of a hermit on a diet of bread and water. Before he established his monastery Fintan sought the advice of his mentor St. Colmcille. When Colmcille looked out from the mountain, Slieve Bloom, over the wood-covered foothills to the south-east, he saw the angels of God coming and going over Clonenagh and he told Fintan that this was to be the place of his monastery. In mythology, Fintan is said to have been the only Irishman to have survived the Biblical flood.
DESCRIPTION: Means “fair-headed.” Fionn Mac Cool (read the legend), a central character in Irish folklore and mythology lead the warrior band, the Fianna (read the legend). Fionn was not only incredibly strong but he was also extremely brave, handsome, generous and wise, a wisdom he aquired by touching the “Salmon of Knowledge” (read the legend) and then sucking his thumb. The name is popular in Ireland with both spellings Fionn and Finn.
Irish Boys Names G – N
PRONOUCE: “gar + roid”
DESCRIPTION: Means “brave with a spear” or “spear carrier.” The name is associated with Gearoid Fitzgerald, the 3rd Earl of Desmond (1338-98) and leader of the most powerful Norman family in late medieval Ireland. It was believed he had magical powers and is reputed to protect the environment at Lough Gur, where he had a castle in County Limerick. In one story, when a local landowner planned to drain the lake or forbid local people access to it Gearoid made his horse bolt, fatally injuring the landowner. Some even say that he is sleeping at the bottom of Lough Gur, waiting to return to the land of the living.
DESCRIPTION: gleann “valley, glen” and dun “a settlement, fortress” implying “one from the settlement or fortress in the glen.”
DESCRIPTION: Hugh is a translation of an ancient name Aodh meaning “fire.” A name with nationalistic connotations as Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone and Red Hugh O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell together led a rebellion and won some major battles against the forces of the English queen Elizabeth 1st, before being defeated at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601.
PRONOUCE: “ul + an”
DESCRIPTION: “one who worships a different god.” Iollan was the son of the High King Fergus Mac Roth and a champion at the court of King Conchobhar Mac Nessa. When Deirdre and Naoisi eloped to Scotland Iollan went with his father to persuade them to return to Ireland, believing that Conchobhar really had forgiven them. When he returned with them and discovered that all Conchobhar really wanted was revenge he died defending them.
PRONOUCE: “jar + lath”
DESCRIPTION: St. Jarlath (born c. 550 AD) was noted for his piety and his ability as a teacher. In old age he decided to found a monastery where he could end his days. He asked one of his pupils, St. Breandan the Navigator, to drive his chariot east and when the chariot broke a wheel at Tuam in County Galway he took it as a sign that that was where he should end his journey, founding a church that became a great center of learning and art. The name is still popular in this part of Ireland.
DESCRIPTION: Means “gentle child” or “well born.” St. Kevin founded a great monastery at Glendalough in County Wicklow in the seventh century. Noted as a man who wasn’t always comfortable in the company of other human beings, he was very much at home with the animals. One story tells that while Kevin was praying a blackbird came and nested in his hand. He remained at prayer, motionless, until the eggs had hatched. In another story, when he dropped his psalter in a lake an otter came by and retrieved it. The name is still very popular in Ireland.
DESCRIPTION: From laoi “poem” or from the River Lee, the river which runs through County Cork. (See also Finbar.) It is currently popular as a given name for boys.
DESCRIPTION: The Irish form of William, originally a German name will + helm”desire + helmet” and suggests “strong protector.” It is currently a very fashionable name in Ireland and across the world.
PRONOUCE: “lok + lun”
DESCRIPTION: The Vikings plundered Ireland in the 9th and 10th centuries and the native home of the Norwegian invaders was known asLochlan “land of the lochs.” But once they settled and intermarried with the Irish Lochlan became a popular name and was generally given to boys that had fair or red hair – a tribute to their Viking ancestors.
PRONOUCE: “lor + can”
DESCRIPTION: Means “silent” or “fierce” and was probably used as a nickname for a “brave warrior.” Sometimes equated with Laurence, Lorcan is a name in its own right. One Lorcan was the grandfather ofBrian Boru, two kings of Leinster bore the name and St. Lorcan O’Tuathail, better known as St. Laurence O’Toole, was an influential bishop of Dublin and an important mediator between the Norman invaders and the Irish in the twelth century. The name is growing in popularity again in Ireland.
PRONOUCE: “mala + ki”
ENGLISH: Malachy (pron. “mala + kee”)
DESCRIPTION: A name with two sources, St. Malachi (1095-1148 AD) was the Bishop of Armagh who adopted the name from the Hebrew prophet “Malachi” whose name means “my angel” or “messenger of God.” It is also linked to the High King Maoilseachlainn “devotee of St. Sechnall” one of Saint Patrick’s first companions.
PRONOUCE: “mur + tah”
DESCRIPTION: muir “sea” and ceardach “skilled” implying “skilled in the ways of the sea.” The name of three High Kings and one of the greatest Irish military commanders known as “Murtagh of the Leather Cloak,” he set out in mid-winter, wearing leather cloaks against the bitter cold, and turned back the maurauding Vikings. He beat the invaders in a sea battle on Strangford Lough in 926, took and burned Viking Dublin in 939, ravaged the Norse settlements in the Scottish Isles with an Ulster fleet in 801 and died in combat in 803, presumably wearing all his cloaks.
PRONOUCE: “nye + al”
DESCRIPTION: The name could come from “passionate, vehement” or from nel”a cloud.” Niall of the Nine Hostages (read the legend) was a fourth-century king of Tara who gained the throne because of a test – he and his brothers had to enter the forest and find their own food and shelter. As time wore on they grew thirsty and approached a well guarded by a hideously ugly woman. Before she would allow them to have a drink she asked for a kiss. Only Niall agreed and when he had kissed her she was transformed into the most beautiful woman on earth and in turn she granted him sovereignty of Erin.
Irish Boys Names O – Z
Odhran, Oran , Orin
PRONOUCE: “o + ran” or “o + rin”
ENGLISH: Odran (pron. “ode + ran”)
DESCRIPTION: All variants of odhra meaning “dark haired.” Seventeen saints have used the name and Odhran, abbot of Meath, was one of the 12 devotees who accompanied St. Columba to Iona. When he died soon after their arrival Columba saw Odhran’s soul ascending to heaven following a battle between angels and devils. Another Odhran was the charioteer of St. Patrick.
PRONOUCE: “osh + een”
DESCRIPTION: The son of the legendary warrior Fionn Mac Cool (read the legend) and the goddess Sive. His mother was turned into a deer by the Dark Druid and she reared him in the forest until he was seven years old. When Fionn was out hunting he found the child and recognising him as his son, gave him the name oisin”little deer.” He is best remembered for his love for “Niamh of the Golden Hair” with whom he spent 300 years in Tir-na-nOg, (“Land of Eternal Youth”) (read the legend). (Read the legend of Oisin and Niamh.) A very popular name again in Ireland.
PRONOUCE: “paw + drig” or “paw + rik”
DESCRIPTION: From the Latin patricius “nobly born.” The patron saint of Ireland, it is hard to differentiate between fact and myth. What is probably true is that he was born in Britain around 373 AD and was brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of seven, possibly by Niall of the Nine Hostages (read the legend). Forced to guard sheep on the Slemish Mountains in Country Antrim for six years he had a vision urging him to convert his captors. He escaped to France where he trained as a priest before returning to Ireland where he banished the snakes (i.e. paganism) and converted the population to Christianity. Both Patrick and Padraig are very popular names in Ireland.
PRONOUCE: “pad + ar”
DESCRIPTION: Irish form of Peter and thus comes ultimately from Greek petros”the rock,” it is still in common use in Ireland today.
Pearse, Pearce , Pierce
DESCRIPTION: Comes from the Norman French name “Piers” and is still very popular as it is given to honor Patrick Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 when Ireland won its independence from England.
PRONOUCE: “pron + she + iss”
DESCRIPTION: The Irish form of Francis, a name originating from the figure of St. Francis of Assisi. The name means “little French man” and was popularised in Ireland by the Franciscans whose founder was St. Francis of Assisi. The Celts would have been responsive to the stories of St. Francis’s attitude to birds and animals.
Quinlan, Quilan , Quinlivan
DESCRIPTION: A surname, now an increasingly popular as a given name. From caoindealbhain meaning “gently-shaped, athletic.”
DESCRIPTION: A variant of the name ceann meaning “intelligent,” Quinn is the most common surname in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland and is increasingly used as a given name. As traditional quartermasters to the O’Neills, the kings of Ulster for over four centuries, Quinns were responsible for arms and provisions in both war and peace.
DESCRIPTION: An Irish version of the Germanic ragan + mund “counsellor, protector.” Particularly popular in Northern Ireland where Redmond O’Hanlon was a charismatic outlaw, the Irish “Robin Hood.” He was born about 1623 in Country Armagh where his father owned seven townlands. During the Cromwellian settlement their estate was taken over by the English. Redmond, his three brothers and a band of about 50 followers took to the hills. Known as “Rapparees,” they were the terror of those who had confiscated the Irish lands and avenged some of the wrongs inflicted upon their peasant neighbors. On Douglas Bridge I met a man Who lived adjacent to Strabane, Before the English hung him high For riding with O’Hanlon. (From the “Ballad of Douglas Bridge” by Francis Carlin.)
PRONOUCE: “rye + lee”
DESCRIPTION: Meaning “courageous, valiant.” A surname in Ireland that can be used as a given name.
PRONOUCE: “reer + don”
DESCRIPTION: From ri “king” and bardan “poet” it means “royal poet.” In Irish tradition the poet was very highly regarded in any royal household as he acted as scholar, historian and advisor to the king.
PRONOUCE: “ro + nan”
DESCRIPTION: From ron “a seal.” Legend tells of a seal who is warned never to stray too close to the land. When the “seal child” is swept ashore by a huge wave, she becomes trapped in a human form, known as a “Selkie” or “seal maiden.” Although she lives as the wife of a fisherman and bears him children, known as “ronans” or “little seals,” she never quite loses her “sea-longing.” Eventually she finds the “seal-skin” which the fisherman has hidden and slips back into the ocean. But she can’t forget her husband and children and can even be seen swimming close to the shore, keeping a watchful eye on them.
PRONOUCE: “ro + ree”
DESCRIPTION: From rua + ri meaning “red king, great king.” Rory O’Connor, the last High King of Ireland was forced to abdicate the throne in 1175.
PRONOUCE: “shay + muss”
DESCRIPTION: The Irish version of James. Many well-known Irishmen have been called Seamus including the 1995 Nobel poet laureate Seamus Heaney. The Nobel prize in Literature was awarded for his “works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.”
DESCRIPTION: Irish form of John meaning “God’s gracious gift.” Shane is a very popular variant of the name in Northern Ireland in memory of Shane O’Neill whose forces won notable victories over the armies of Queen Elizabeth 1st in the sixteenth century.
PRONOUCE: “ti + gue”
DESCRIPTION: Irish name meaning “a poet” or “a philosopher.” In one legend, at the Battle of Clontarf (read the legend) in 1014 Tadhg Mór(“Big Tadhg”) O’Kelly is reported to have fought “like a wolf dog” before he was overcome by the Vikings and killed. When he fell a ferocious animal came from the ocean to protect the dead body of the chieftain until it was retrieved by his O’Kelly kinsmen. “A most extraordinary creature, it had the head of a fox, the chest of an elephant, the mane of a horse, the forelegs of an eagle, the body and hind legs of a hound and the tail of a lion.”
PRONOUCE: “teer + nee”
DESCRIPTION: Meaning “lord, chief” and implies “lord of the household.” A sixth-century saint, Tierney of Clones had the privilege of being baptized by St. Conleth of Kildare with St. Brigid as his godmother. As a young man he was captured by pirates and taken to the British king who placed him in the monastery of Rosnat in England. He later returned to Ireland and became Bishop of Clogher in County Down.
PRONOUCE: “toh + moss”
DESCRIPTION: The Irish form of Thomas, a biblical name meaning “twin.”
PRONOUCE: “tur + la”
DESCRIPTION: From an Irish name meaning “one who aids or assists.” It is usually translated as Terence and Terry, two names that have become strongly associated with Ireland. Turlough O’Carolan was a 17th century blind harpist and composer who wrote one of the most haunting pieces of Irish music, “O’Carolan’s Concerto.”
PRONOUCE: “ult + in”
DESCRIPTION: Means, simply, “an Ulsterman.” There have been eighteen saints named Ultan, the best-known being St. Ultan of Ardbraccan, (c. 650 AD). Noted for his care of orphans, the poor and the sick he is regarded as the patron saint of children and a hospital for sick children in Dublin is named in his honor.